A Holy Interruption
Advent often seems contradictory. It is a season of hope and invitation, yet it also tells the story of doubt and fear. It is a season of expectation, but it precedes one of the greatest interruptions in all of history.
Though there were many looking for the Messiah and waiting expectantly, Jesus’ birth was mostly treated as an interruption. For Mary and Joseph, it interrupted their marriage plan, and seemed quite inconvenient to the groom, who was apprehensive of other’s responses to his virgin fiancee’s pregnancy. For the shepherds, the birth interrupted their daily practice of caring for the flock. Even for Herod, this coming of a child “king” interrupted his reign, creating a state of paranoia. And it didn’t stop there—Jesus spent much of his ministry interrupting established rituals, interrupting hopeless moments to complete the miraculous, and interrupting the lives of his disciples, who gave up everything to follow him.
If a king was going to come and dwell among us, we could have at least given him a room. But his interruption was so inconvenient that he came to us in the lowliest of settings. And Jesus’ ministry was completed in the same way: on the night of his betrayal, he washed the feet of his followers, humbling himself to the last. The incarnation is only the beginning of Christ’s life of interruptions, his upsetting of established ways of thinking and doing.
Advent seems to be a time of interrupted expectations—hope in the midst of hopelessness, a growing light in the midst of darkness, a Savior awaited and then delivered in a food trough for animals.
And maybe this is the reason that Christmas “sneaks up” on us each year, why we never feel completely ready. By nature, God becoming flesh is an interruption, and something we can never quite prepare for. And though we long for His arrival, the mystery of the incarnation eludes us year after year. Every year during the feast, we remember that He came not in a vacant time in history, but in the midst of tangible events and real worries and doubts and fears. This Christmas, just like the first, He dwells among us, interrupting the stories and narratives we thought were our own.
All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,
Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;
Choosing a manger for Thy throne,
While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.
A little Child, Thou art our Guest,
That weary ones in Thee may rest;
Forlorn and lowly is Thy birth;
That we may rise to heaven from earth.
Thou comest in the darksome night
To make us children of the light;
To make us, in the realms divine,
Like Thine own angels round Thee shine.